|Part of a series of articles on
|Segregation in the US|
|Black Codes • Jim Crow laws • Redlining • Racial steering • Blockbusting • White flight • Black flight • Gentrification • Sundown towns • Proposition 14 • Indian Appropriations • Indian Reservation|
|May Laws • Japanese American internment • Italian American internment • Immigration Act of 1924 • Separate but equal • Ghettos|
Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines. The expression refers primarily to the legally or socially enforced separation of African Americans from other races, but can more loosely refer to voluntary separation, and also to separation of other racial or ethnic minorities from the majority mainstream society and communities.
Racial segregation in the United States has meant the physical separation and provision of separate facilities (especially during the Jim Crow era), but it can also refer to other manifestations of racial discrimination such as separation of roles within an institution, such as the United States Armed Forces up to the 1950s when black units were typically separated from white units but were led by white officers.
Racial segregation in the United States can be divided into de jure and de facto segregation. De jure segregation, sanctioned or enforced by force of law, was stopped by federal enforcement of a series of Supreme Court decisions after with Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. The process of throwing off legal segregation in the United States lasted through much of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when civil rights demonstrations resulted in public opinion turning against enforced segregation. De facto segregation — segregation "in fact" — persists to varying degrees without sanction of law to the present day. The contemporary racial segregation seen in America in residential neighborhoods has been shaped by public policies, mortgage discrimination and redlining among other things.
After Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867, the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870 providing the right to vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbidding racial segregation in accommodations, Federal occupation troops in the South assured blacks the right to vote and to elect their own political leaders. The Reconstruction amendments asserted the supremacy of the national state and the formal equality under the law of everyone within it. However this radical Reconstruction era would collapse because of multidimensional racialism related to the spread of democratic idealism. What began as region wide passage of ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws that focused on issues of equal access to public activities and facilities would by 1910 have spread throughout the south, mandating the segregation of whites and blacks in the public sphere.
The collapse of the reconstruction amendments and what alluded to racial segregation was also a political move that emerged in the Southern states. Many of the white voters in the south were farmers and opposed to the black man voting for racial reasons, and also because they objected to the possibility of their vote being employed against them. This was during a time of agrarian unrest and the uncertainty of the political importance of the agricultural sector of the south. Independent challenges to the Democrat power remained endemic in the South until the end of the nineteenth century. To discourage black voting, Southern Democrats resorted to violence. The white supremacist Ku Klux Klan terrorized black political leaders to counter the Republican party's power base. Many blacks were killed (often lynched) for attempting to exercise their right to vote, for political organization and for attending school. Racialism was also fueled by the ideology of Social Darwinism, which broadly asserted that because of a natural competition among humans and the social evolution driven by the survival of the fittest, the white man not only should but deserved to retain political and economic power. Thus the behavior exhibited towards Negros was not perceived as racism but rather action that was sanctioned by the ‘science’ of Euro-centric racialism.
The efforts to disenfranchise black men in the south were at first performed while trying not to directly violate the intent of the Fifteenth Amendment. Such efforts included implementing poll taxes and property qualifications, which were directly aimed at discouraging the black voter but did not technically deny the right to vote based on color.
After the Compromise of 1877, all Federal troops were withdrawn from the South and Reconstruction ended, which also marked the onset of the nadir of American race relations, when African-Americans both in the South and the North were increasingly oppressed by white mob violence and by de jure and de facto segregation.
"Separate but equal" was a phrase used by attorneys for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the Supreme Court litigation of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, to refer to the phrase "Separate but equal" used in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896 as a custom of de jure racial segregation enacted into law. The NAACP, led by later Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, was successful in challenging the constitutionality of Plessy and the Court voted to overturn the previous ruling. After the American Civil War (1861–1865) brought about the end of slavery, Plessy became the de-facto standard throughout the southern United States, and represented the institutionalization of the segregation period. African Americans and European Americans would receive the same services (schools, hospitals, prisons, water fountains, bathrooms, etc.), but that there would be distinct facilities for each race. In practice, the services and facilities reserved for African-Americans were almost always of lower quality than those reserved for whites; for example, most African-American schools received less public funding per student than nearby white schools.
The legitimacy of such laws was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. The repeal of "separate but equal" laws was a key focus of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the Supreme Court outlawed segregated public education facilities for blacks and whites at the state level; the companion case of Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, outlawed such practices at the Federal level in the District of Columbia.
For much of the 20th century, it was a popular belief among many whites that the presence of blacks in a white neighborhood would bring down property values. The United States government created a policy to segregate the country which involved making low-interest mortgages available to families through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Veteran's Administration. Black families were legally entitled to these loans but were sometimes denied these loans because the planners behind this initiative labelled many black neighborhoods throughout the country as "in decline." The rules for loans did not say that "black families cannot get loans"; rather, it said people from "areas in decline" could not get loans. While a case could be made that the wording did not appear to compel segregation, it tended to have that effect. And actually, this administration was formed as part of the New Deal to all Americans as well, and really just affected black residents of inner city areas; though most black families did in fact live in the inner city areas of big cities, and almost entirely occupied the inner city areas after World War II ended and whites began to move to new suburbs.
In addition to encouraging white families to move to suburbs by providing them loans to do so, the government uprooted many established African American communities by building elevated highways through their neighborhoods. To build a highway, tens of thousands of single-family homes were destroyed. Because these properties were summarily declared to be "in decline," families were given pittances for their properties, and were forced into federal housing called "the projects." To build these projects, still more single family homes were demolished.
In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the segregation of the federal Civil Service. White and black people would sometimes be required to eat separately and use separate schools, public toilets, park benches, train and restaurant seating, etc. In some locales, in addition to segregated seating, it could be forbidden for stores or restaurants to serve different races under the same roof.
Segregation was also pervasive in housing. State constitutions (for example, that of California) had clauses giving local jurisdictions the right to regulate where members of certain races could live. In 1917, the Supreme Court in the case of Buchanan v. Warley declared municipal resident segregation ordinances unconstitutional. In response, whites resorted to the restrictive covenant, a formal deed restriction binding white property owners in a given neighborhood not to sell to blacks. Whites who broke these agreements could be sued by "damaged" neighbors. In the 1948 case of Shelley v. Kraemer, the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that such covenants were unenforceable in a court of law. However, residential segregation patterns had already become established in most American cities, and have often persisted up to the present (see white flight and Redlining).
With the migration to the North of many black workers at the turn of the twentieth century, and the friction that occurred between white and black workers during this time, segregation was and continues to be a phenomenon in northern cities as well as in the South. Whites generally allocate tenements as housing to the poorest blacks. It would be well to remember, though, that while racism had to be legislated out of the South, many in the North, including Quakers and others who ran the Underground Railroad, were ideologically opposed to southerners' treatment of blacks. By the same token, many white southerners have a claim to closer relationships with blacks than wealthy northern whites, regardless of the latter's stated political persuasion.
Anti-miscegenation laws (also known as miscegenation laws) prohibited whites and non-whites from marrying each other. These state laws always targeted marriage between whites and blacks, and in some states also prohibited marriages between whites and Native Americans or Asians. As one of many examples of such state laws, Utah's marriage law had an anti-miscegenation component that was passed in 1899 and repealed in 1963. It prohibited marriage between a white and anyone considered a Negro (Black American), mulatto (half black), quadroon (one-quarter black), octoroon (one-eighth black), "Mongolian" (East Asian), or member of the "Malay race" (a classification used to refer to Filipinos). No restrictions were placed on marriages between people who were not "white persons." (Utah Code, 40-1-2, C. L. 17, §2967 as amended by L. 39, C. 50; L. 41, Ch. 35.).
In World War I, blacks served in the United States Armed Forces in segregated units. Black soldiers were often poorly trained and equipped, and were often put on the frontlines in suicide missions. Still, the 93rd Division fought alongside the French . The 369th Infantry (formerly 15th New York National Guard) Regiment distinguished themselves, and were known as the "Harlem Hellfighters".
World War II saw the first black military pilots in the U.S., the Tuskegee Airmen, 99th Fighter Squadron, and also saw the segregated 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion participate in the liberation of Jewish survivors at Buchenwald. Despite the institutional policy of racially segregated training for enlisted members and in tactical units; Army policy dictated that black and white Soldiers would train together in officer candidate schools (beginning in 1942). Thus, the Officer Candidate School became the Army's first formal experiment with integration- with all Officer Candidates, regardless of race, living and training together.
During World War II, 110,000 people of Japanese descent (whether citizens or not) were placed in internment camps. Hundreds of people of German and Italian descent were also imprisoned. While the government program of Japanese American internment targeted all the Japanese in America as enemies, most German and Italian Americans were left in peace and were allowed to serve in the US army.
Pressure to end racial segregation in the government grew among African Americans and progressives after the end of World War II. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the United States Armed Forces.
A law need not stipulate de jure segregation to have the effect of de facto segregation. For example, the eagle feather law, which governs the possession and religious use of eagle feathers, was officially written to protect then dwindling eagle populations while still protecting traditional Native American spiritual and religious customs, of which the use of eagles are central. The eagle feather law later met charges of promoting racial segregation because of the law’s provision authorizing the possession of eagle feathers to members of only one ethnic group, Native Americans, and forbidding Native Americans from including non-Native Americans in indigenous customs involving eagle feathers—a common modern practice dating back to the early 1500s.
Sports segregation was also a major national issue as well. In 1900, just four years after the US Supreme Court separate but equal constitutional, segregation was enforced in horse racing, a sport which had previously seen many African American jockeys win Triple Crown races. Widespread segregation would also exist in bicycle and automobile racing. In 1890, however, segregation would end greatly African American track and field athletes after various universities and colleges in the northern states agreed to integrate their track and field teams. Like track and field, soccer was another which experienced a low amount of segregation in the early days of segregation. Many colleges and universities in the northern states would also allow African Americans on to play their football teams as well.
Segregation was also hardly enforced in boxing. In 1908, Jack Johnson, would become the first African American to win the World Heavyweight Title. However, Johnson's personal life (i.e. his publicly acknowledged relationships with white women) made him very unpopular among many Caucasians throughout the world. It wasn't until 1937, when Joe Louis defeated German boxer Max Schmeling, that the general American public would embrace, and greatly accept, an African American as the World Heavyweight Champion.
In 1904, Charles Follis became the first African American to play for a professional football team, the Shelby Blues, and professional football leagues agreed to let allow only a limited amount of teams to be integrated. In 1933, however, the NFL, now the only major football league in America, reversed it's limited integration policy and completely segregated the entire league. However, the NFL color barrier would permanently break in 1946, when the Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode and the Cleveland Browns hired Marion Motley and Bill Wallis.
Prior to the 1930s, basketball would also suffer a great deal of discrimination as well. Black and whites played mostly in different leagues and usually where forbidden from playing in inter-racial games. However, the popularity of the African American basketball team The Harlem Globetrotters in the would alter the American public's acceptance of African Americans in basketball. By the end of the 1930s, many northern colleges and universities would allow African Americans to play on their teams. In 1942, the color barrier for basketball was smashed after Bill Jones and three other African American basketball players joined the Toledo Jim White Chevrolet NBL franchise and five Harlem Globetrotters joined the Chicago Studebakers.
In 1947, segregation in professional sports would suffer a very big blow after African American Negro League player Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and had a breakthrough season. By the end of 1949, however, only fifteen states had no segregation laws in effect. and only eighteen states had outlawed segregation in public accommodations. Of the remaining states, twenty still allowed school segregation to take place, fourteen still allowed segregation to remain in public transportation and 30 still enforced laws forbidding miscegenation.
Despite all the legal changes that have taken place since the 1940s and especially in the 1960s (see Desegregation), the United States remains, to some degree, a segregated society, with housing patterns, school enrollment, church membership, employment opportunities, and even college admissions all reflecting significant de facto segregation. Supporters of affirmative action argue that the persistence of such disparities reflects either racial discrimination or the persistence of its effects.
Gates v. Collier was a case decided in federal court that brought an end to the trustee system and flagrant inmate abuse at the notorious Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Mississippi. In 1972 federal judge, William C. Keady found that Parchman Farm violated modern standards of decency. He ordered an immediate end to all unconstitutional conditions and practices. Racial segregation of inmates was abolished. And the trusty system, which allow certain inmates to have power and control over others, was also abolished.
More recently, the disparity between the racial compositions of inmates in the American prison system has led to concerns that the U.S. Justice system furthers a "new apartheid".
The intellectual roots of Plessy v. Ferguson, the landmark United States Supreme Court decision, upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation, under the doctrine of "separate but equal" were, in part, tied to the scientific racism of the era, however the popular support for the decision was more likely a result of the racist beliefs held by most whites at the time. Later, the court decision, Brown v. Board of Education would reject the ideas of scientific racists about the need for segregation, especially in schools. Following that decision both scholarly and popular ideas of scientific racism played an important role in the attack and backlash that followed the court decision. The Mankind Quarterly is a journal that has published scientific racism. It was founded in 1960,partly in response to the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, which ordered the desegregation of US schools. Many of the publication's contributors, publishers, and Board of Directors espouse academic hereditarianism. The publication is widely criticized for its extremist politics, anti-semitic bent and its support for scientific racism.
After the end of Reconstruction, which followed from the Compromise of 1877, the new Democratic governments in the South instituted state laws to separate black and white racial groups, submitting African-Americans to de facto second-class citizenship and enforcing white supremacy. Collectively, these state laws were called the Jim Crow system, after the name of a stereotypical 1830s black minstrel show character.
Racial segregation became the law in most parts of the American South until the American Civil Rights Movement. These laws, known as Jim Crow laws, were similar to apartheid legislation in the forced segregation of facilities and services to African Americans and White Americans, and prohibition of intermarriage. Some similarities between the situation in the Southern United States and South Africa under Apartheid were:
Some differences were:
In 1963, George Wallace in his inaugural address as governor of Alabama held to a strong segregationist position. Referring to Alabama as "this cradle of the Confederacy, this very heart of the great Anglo-Saxon Southland" and accusing the integrationist of imposing a "tyranny" on the South, he declared his support for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Wallace denounced his own actions in his later years.
Formal segregation also existed in the North. Some neighborhoods were restricted to blacks and job opportunities were denied them by unions in, for example, the skilled building trades. Blacks who moved to the North in the Great Migration after World War I might have been able to live without the same degree of oppression experienced in the South, however the elements of racism and discrimination still existed.
|“||Despite the actions of abolitionists, life for free blacks was far from idyllic, due to northern racism. Most free blacks lived in racial enclaves in the major cities of the North: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. There, poor living conditions led to disease and death. In a Philadelphia study in 1846, practically all poor black infants died shortly after birth. Even wealthy blacks were prohibited from living in white neighborhoods due to whites' fear of declining property values.||”|
While it is commonly thought that segregation was a southern phenomenon, segregation was also to be found in "the North". The Chicago suburb of Cicero for example, was made famous when Civil Rights advocate Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march advocating open (race-unbiased) housing.
|“||Northern blacks were forced to live in a white man's democracy, and while not legally enslaved, subject to definition by their race. In their all-black communities, they continued to build their own churches and schools and to develop vigilance committees to protect members of the black community from hostility and violence.||”|
In the 1930s, however, job discrimination would end greatly for many African Americans in the North, after the Congress of Industrial Organizations, one of America's lead labor unions at the time, agreed to integrate the union.
School segregation in the North was also a major issue. In Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, town near the Mason-Dixie line enforced school segregation, despite state laws outlawing the practice of it. Indiana also required school segregation by state law. During the 1940s, however, NAACP lawsuits quickly depleted segregation from the Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey southern areas. In 1949, Indiana officially repealed it's school segregation law as well. The most common form of segregation in the northern states came from anti-miscegenation laws.
Black-White segregation is consistently declining for most metropolitan areas and cities, though there are geographical differences. In 2000, for instance, the US Census Bureau found that residential segregation has on average declined since 1980 in the West and South, but less so in the Northeast and Midwest. Indeed, the top ten most segregated cities are in the Rust Belt, where total populations have declined in the last few decades. Despite these pervasive patterns, changes for individual areas are sometimes small. Thirty years after the civil rights era, the United States remains a residentially segregated society in which Blacks and Whites inhabit different neighborhoods of vastly different quality.
Redlining is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking, insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in certain, often racially determined, areas. The most devastating form of redlining, and the most common use of the term, refers to mortgage discrimination. Data on house prices and attitudes toward integration suggest that in the mid-twentieth century, segregation was a product of collective actions taken by whites to exclude blacks from their neighborhoods.
The creation of these highways in some cases divided and isolated black neighborhoods from goods and services, many times within industrial corridors. For example, Birmingham’s interstate highway system attempted to maintain the racial boundaries that had been established by the city’s 1926 racial zoning law. The construction of interstate highways through black neighborhoods in the city led to significant population loss in those neighborhoods and is associated with an increase in neighborhood racial segregation.
Dan Immergluck writes that in 2003 small businesses in black neighborhoods still received fewer loans, even after accounting for businesses density, businesses size, industrial mix, neighborhood income, and the credit quality of local businesses. Gregory D. Squires wrote in 2003 that it is clear that race has long affected and continues to affect the policies and practices of the insurance industry. Workers living in American inner-cities have a harder time finding jobs than suburban workers. Redlining has helped preserve segregated living patterns for blacks and whites in the United States because discrimination motivated by prejudice is often contingent on the racial composition of neighborhoods where the loan is sought and the race of the applicant. Lending institutions have been shown to treat black mortgage applicants differently when buying homes in white neighborhoods than when buying homes in black neighborhoods in 1998.
The desire of many whites to avoid having their children attend integrated schools has been a factor in white flight to the suburbs. Recent studies in San Francisco showed that groups of homeowners tended to self-segregate to be with people of the same education level and race. By 1990, the legal barriers enforcing segregation had been mostly replaced by decentralized racism, where whites pay more than blacks to live in predominantly white areas. The residential and social segregation of whites from blacks in the United States creates a socialization process that limits whites' chances for developing meaningful relationships with blacks and other minorities. The segregation experienced by whites from blacks fosters segregated lifestyles and leads them to develop positive views about themselves and negative views about blacks.
Segregation affects people from all social classes. For example, a survey conducted in 2000 found that middle-income, suburban African Americans live in neighborhoods with many more whites than do poor, inner-city blacks. But their neighborhoods are not the same as those of whites having the same socioeconomic characteristics; and, in particular, middle-class blacks tend to live with white neighbors who are less affluent than they are. While, in a significant sense, they are less segregated than poor blacks, race still powerfully shapes their residential options.
Racial segregation is most pronounced in housing. Although people of different races may work together, they are still very unlikely to live in integrated neighborhoods. This pattern differs only by degree in different metropolitan areas.
Massey and Denton propose that the fundamental cause of poverty among African Americans is segregation. This segregation has created the inner city black urban ghettos that create poverty traps and keep blacks from being able to escape the underclass. These neighborhoods have institutionalized an inner city black culture that is negatively stigmatized and purports the economic situation of the black community. The use of black English vernacular as a variant of the English language has made it extremely difficult for black children in the educational system as well as other African Americans on the job market. This language that has arisen from residential segregation has crippled children of these neighborhoods because they cannot easily transition between standard English school work and books to the black English vernacular that they use in their homes and with their friends. Racial segregation or separation can lead to social, economic and political tensions.
Geographically, residential segregation splits communities between the black inner city and white suburbs. This phenomenon is due to white flight where whites actively leave neighborhoods because of a black presence. There are more than just geographical consequences to this, as the money leaves and poverty grows, crime rates jump and businesses leave and follow the money. This creates a job shortage in segregated neighborhoods and perpetuates the economic inequality in the inner city. With the wealth and businesses gone from inner city areas, the tax base decreases, which hurts funding for education. Consequently those that can afford to leave the area for better schools leave decreasing the tax base for educational funding even more. Any business that is left or would consider opening doesn’t want to invest in a place nobody has any money but has a lot of crime, meaning the only things that are left in these communities are poor black people with little opportunity for employment or education."
Today, many whites are willing, and are able, to pay a premium to live in a predominantly white neighborhood. Equivalent housing in white areas commands a higher rent. By bidding up the price of housing, many white neighborhoods again effectively shut out blacks, because blacks are unwilling, or unable, to pay the premium to buy entry into white neighborhoods. While some scholars maintain that residential segregation has continued—some sociologists have termed it "hypersegregation" or "American Apartheid"--the US Census Bureau has shown that residential segregation has been in overall decline since 1980.
The percentage of black children who now go to integrated public schools is at its lowest level since 1968. The words of "American apartheid" have been used in reference to the disparity between white and black schools in America. Those who compare this inequality to apartheid frequently point to unequal funding for predominantly black schools.
In Chicago, by the academic year 2002-2003, 87 percent of public-school enrollment was black or Hispanic; less than 10 percent of children in the schools were white. In Washington, D.C., 94 percent of children were black or Hispanic; less than 5 percent were white. In St. Louis, 82 percent of the student population were black or Hispanic; in Philadelphia and Cleveland, 79 percent; in Los Angeles, 84 percent, in Detroit, 96 percent; in Baltimore, 89 percent. In New York City, nearly three quarters of the students were black or Hispanic.
Even these statistics, as stark as they are, cannot begin to convey how deeply isolated children in the poorest and most segregated sections of these cities have become.
Kozol expanded on this topic in his book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.
The "New American apartheid" refers to the allegation that US drug and criminal policies in practice target blacks on the basis of race. The radical left-wing web-magazine ZNet featured a series of 4 articles on "The New American Apartheid" in which it drew parallels between the treatment of blacks by the American justice system and apartheid:
Modern prisoners occupy the lowest rungs on the social class ladder, and they always have. The modern prison system (along with local jails) is a collection of ghettos or poorhouses reserved primarily for the unskilled, the uneducated, and the powerless. In increasing numbers this system is being reserved for racial minorities, especially blacks, which is why we are calling it the New American Apartheid. This is the same segment of American society that has experienced some of the most drastic reductions in income and they have been targeted for their involvement in drugs and the subsequent violence that extends from the lack of legitimate means of goal attainment.
This article has been discussed at The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and by several school boards attempting to address the issue of continued segregation.